A/N: First and foremost, I apologize for taking so long with this story- but is done now. I'd also like to thank everyone who badgered me be fair and give all the guys a chance at the spotlight. So without further ado: welcome to the last of the turtles' rooms.
Donatello sighed as he eased open the door to his brother's room. At least he tried to. He sighed again as he put his shoulder into the door. By bracing his feet and using his shell, he was able to push the wooden blockade back through the drifts of stuff on the other side just enough for him to enter. He had absolutely no idea how his younger brother was always able to dart in and out of here so fast.
The room beyond was dim, though a small glow emanating from the far corner. Raph still teased Mikey mercilessly whenever their red banded brother was reminded that the youngest turtle still slept with the thing- but Donny noticed that it's comforting presence weathered even the most persistent ribbing. As he blindly swiped for the light switch he mused that perhaps, as they grew older, the need to chase away the dark noises in the night grew rather than shrank. After all, they had seen some of the night dwellers.
The switch flicked up under his green hand and he sighed at the sight before him. The room was chaos set lose on earth. How anyone walked through this, let alone found anything here, was honestly beyond his comprehension. And he did quantum mechanics in his spare time.
Really, this was all Raph's fault. His slightly belligerent older brother had ambled into his lab the other day and informed the purple banded turtle that he was taking his new and experimental crystal powered lifelong light source. Or as Raph put it: 'that one light with the hook'. Don had been kind of absorbed in his calculations for the latest set of Battleshell upgrades, so he must have made some sort of affirmative noise. The next thing he knew Raph was telling him that Mikey had run off with it- something about needing a stronger light for his Turtle Titan signal. Since Don was a genius, he was able to deduce that since his crystal powered light, no matter how improved or energy conservative, would not be able to light up the night sky, Mikey was probably just using it for his toys. 'Action figures.' Funny, his internal dictionary usually sounded more mature than that.
Still, that was how he came to be wading thought the disaster area that his little brother somehow resided in. He wended his way around piles of old, new, and in some cases, slightly mildewed comic books, prickly patches of discarded action figures, and a pile or two of unidentified papers until he made it to the low table scattered with figures. He searched through the piles of plastic, though he was careful not to damage any. While Don did not share his little brother's obsession with what he honestly considered rather frivolous pastimes, he understood that Mikey's toys were much like his experiments- they gave a sense of direction and purpose to their strange and hidden existence. And heaven help the one who messed with them.
He laughed softly when he came across the 'Turtle Titan' figure. It was really nothing more than a misshapen green hunk of plastic with a crudely sewn cape. The Justice Force must not have gotten around to putting out a turtle figure, though, technically, Mikey was on the rolls of the Justice Force reserve. How he had managed that was a story in itself. Still, it was a pitiful showing next to the all but pristine condition of the rest of the 'team'. Maybe Don could talk to Silver Sentry about it, or even find a way to mold one himself. He wasn't an artist, but all things came down to math, ultimately. If he could just figure out a way… 'Focus, Donatello,' he chided himself. The crystal light wasn't going to blow up … probably, but the sooner he found it the sooner he could finish those tests and be sure.
Besides, it didn't seem right, going through Mikey's room when he wasn't around. He seriously doubted that he'd find a diary or anything with his youngest brother's deepest darkest thoughts or anything, but Donny had a very strong sense of personal privacy. Maybe it had something to do with the golden rule, you know, 'do unto others…' And if there was one thing he wanted, it was for annoying brothers, older and younger, to keep their hands off his inventions! And, of course, while he was dreaming, he also wanted the Shredder and all the Foot to disappear- for good this time. He wanted to be able to go to college, maybe get a couple degrees. He wanted Leo to be able to take two steps without having to worry that he did something wrong or keep an eye on their shells. He wanted Raph to find something, or even someone that would make him more happy then angry. He wanted his father to grow old somewhere more comfortable then a damp sewer- or better yet, live forever. And Mikey… he wanted Mikey to be able to feel the sun whenever he felt like it, to be able to buy a comic book when there wasn't a convention in town, to be able to laugh as loudly as he wanted to without worrying someone would hear.
Donatello sighed and sat back on his heels, he usually wasn't this morose. He supposed that he was just feeling a little run down, and perhaps a tad under appreciated. And not just by his family, but the world at large. After all, how many times had they saved the city? He had stopped counting. Him, the 'math whiz'. 'I bet Michelangelo would know,' he thought, 'or at least, think he knew. He'd probably count finding Klunk as a city saving moment though.' Not that Don had anything against the orange fuzzball, he enjoyed the extra company in his lab- but not after just cleaning out the litterbox, again, only to find a hairball in the middle of his latest set of calculations! 'Mikey and his promises.'
He looked up to distract himself from the impossible amount of clutter he still had to sift through. He had once just flat out asked Michelangelo how he lived in a room that one could only assume had stone floors. "I don't know, I guess I just don't look down," had been the guileless answer. Ignoring the obvious and pressing problems inherent in that statement, such as how one would avoid destroying one's feet, Donatello could see how such a strategy would work. Posters in various stages of decay, but all lovingly cleaned up and hung, littered the walls in a way that could almost be described as artistic. None were less than a year old, and a couple were even in black and white, but Don knew that Mikey didn't care. His love for new video games was offset only by his love for old movies. Once Don had caught Mikey crying at the end of "Miracle on 31st Street" with a sappy sad smile on his face. Don had been sorely tempted to tell Raph and Leo all about it, but Mikey had convinced him to watch it all the way through with the younger turtle first. As the credits rolled Don was left with a surprising and slightly embarrassing burning at the back of his eyes. It hadn't even been that sad! There was just something about Mikey that infused the air around him and made him just more everything. Every once in a while Don would remind himself that he still needed to test that theory. Of course, Mikey was usually just more annoying, but there it was.
Snorting quietly to himself, he carefully shifted the precariously staked piles of Justice Force comics, making sure to return them to their undoubtedly meticulously memorized positions. Finding an old calculator, but no crystal he moved on to the chest of drawers. The top was littered with old water glasses, complete with moisture rings around the bottom, but when he opened the drawers he was met with a surprise. All of Michelangelo's masks where carefully stacked and laid out flat in the first drawer, older masks, then the newer ones, freshly sewn up, without any frays or stains. Donatello would expect such meticulousness from Leo, but never from Mikey. He had imagined that the youngest turtle would just dump all his stuff in the first drawer he could lay his fingers on. The next held neat rows of knee and elbow pads as well as rolls of belts, two sets each, also carefully organized, which was even stranger considering that Don had been forced to sift through the drifts bellow Mikey's bed to find his little brother's 'laundry', otherwise known as the soiled and sometimes blood incrusted leather pads and often masks that they could not take to the dry cleaners, no matter how Mikey whined about the chore. 'Maybe he doesn't care where the dirty ones end up,' Donatello thought distractedly, grimacing in distaste as he recalled that Mikey's wash was just as likely to be covered in pizza toppings as in blood.
By now he was fairly sure that he would not find his invention anywhere in this dresser, but he pulled open the last drawer all the same.
Donatello never cultivated the same attachment to his weapons as his older brother's had. Leonardo adopted the policy of living and dying by the sword, far too literally Donny thought, and Raph would go to hell and back to recover one of his sais- though he'd vehemently deny any accusation of personification on his part. Raphael didn't think it was manly or some such thing. Don could not get past seeing his bo as a tool. True, it was an important one, and at times it seemed, even to him, to become an extension of his arm, but never his soul. He had always assumed that the lack of connection had been in large part due to the relative fragility of his weapon. Wood simply did not last all that long when continuously pitted against steal, so both he and Mikey had replaced their weapons several times over the years. He had always thought that Mikey, like himself, knew better then to invest too much into their weapons. It looked like he was wrong.
The last drawer contained a carefully compacted row of splintered, shattered, broken, and cut nunchucks, laid out with most of the pieces in place. Some of these Don remembered, especially the smaller ones wrapped in red. Mikey had been going through a 'phase', at least, that is what Master Splinter had assured his older brothers, and thankfully he had been right, where the youngest turtle had decided that he wanted to be exactly like Raphael. It had been a nightmare, no mistake. But he had gotten over it, and they all quietly agreed that loud and annoying was better than the sullen, silent, and stoic caricature that the youngest had affected. In fact, that set seemed to be the only one still intact, though rather worn- Mikey had gotten into more fights being 'Raph' than he had the entire rest of his life. A few of the others he recognized as well, including one he had broke himself in a sparring session a year ago. He didn't even think he had apologized- he didn't have time to, if he remembered correctly, Mikey had been right on the heels of the surprised silence with a flippant remark that had made Don feel more like hitting him again, or at least rolling his eyes, then actually delivering his apology. Don had assumed that that had been the end of it… well, maybe it shouldn't have been.
'Shell!' thought Donny, slamming the drawer shut with just a tad too much force. 'How am I supposed to know when something actually means something and when he's just messing around? Mikey can't always feel this way…' Donatello had thought that he read his brothers well, even Raphael. They all had a role to play in this family; he had a mental chart that he used to assign various brothers to various emotional upsets. He would have written it down and passed them out to save time, but a split second thought as to the near instantaneous teasing that would occur quickly convinced him to keep it to himself.
The point was, it was his job to pick up on things like this. Mikey took care of the things that just couldn't or didn't need to be dealt with, usually by cracking a bad joke or making some other off color comment. Leo handled the quazi-delicate material that could be tracked down and eliminated in the calm, swift way the eldest had about him. Don figured that Leo actually was aware of a lot more then he let on, but, like Master Splinter, he tended to stand back and let his siblings have their privacy until he found the perfect opening. Or was forced to move, usually by Raph. But even the resident hot head has his place. Sometimes there was no one better then Raph to lay out your problems in the simplest, no nonsense, black and white way there was. And, honestly, sometimes a good kick in the shell was the best way to solve a problem. Donatello generally covered what was left, anything that needed an impartial ear or a careful eye to catch.
Don sighed, he'd need to think some more about this, but not now, he still had a job to do. 'where the shell is that light?' he moaned silently, dragging his eyes through the debris, desperately wishing he had the x-ray vision so often found in Mikey's comics. He had actually looked into making x-ray glasses when he was younger- it had been Mikey's idea, actually, Like the Battleshell. Unlike the Battleshell, however, the glasses had never gotten off the drawing board. Without a surface to project on- and then there had been the problem or radiation… Still, he was sure that he would figure it out eventually. Mikey would go ballistic with joy.
Donatello resolutely made his way to the bed, deciding that he would check all of the visible land marks before resorting to breaking the rest of the room down into a search grid. If only he could be sure that the light wouldn't explode.
The bed itself was a bunk bed, not one of the ones the turtles had shared when they were younger- one of those had been destroyed in the collapse of their old Lair, and the other was now in Donatello's room. And of course, like everything associated with Michelangelo, the bed was no quite… normal. Mikey had roped Raphael into helping him build the thing. It was almost the size of a full bed with the first bunk a little more than waist height and the second a good five feet above that. Don had been called in when the odd piece of furniture started to shift and grown ominously when Mikey had hoped up to test it out. The engineer suggested that their problems would disappear if they went with a more conventional design. His suggestion was met with something less than optimism, perhaps even bordering on dismay. After the protests had faded and the orange rimmed puppy eyes had done the work all three of them had settled down to figure out a way to reinforce the wood and keep the top heavy thing from toppling over during the night and cracking open Mikey's stubborn head. It hadn't exactly been harmonious work, nothing ever was when Raph was involved, but they had managed in the end. Don had wondered how the entire city of New York hadn't heard about the project, let alone Leo and their Father. But then Master Splinter had fifteen years of experience to help him divine when his children were setting out on life threatening escapade and when he should just leave them to it. Leo actually had dropped by at one point. He had materialized in the door way, just watching them in that slightly detached way he had sometimes. Don had wandered over while Raph held the nails steady for Mikey, threatening the turtle within an inch of his life should he miss. The two stood in the doorway for a moment, before a smile cracked Leonardo's famous calm, brining him solidly into the moment.
"Just make sure he can actually get on that bed, okay Don?" the elder turtle had smirked before shaking his head and disappearing back into the larger Lair.
The not being able to get in was actually a valid concern, both beds being oddly high. But Mikey, with his equally odd combination of luck, grace, and clumsy energy devised a way to hit the lower bunk in such a way that he pivoted on his shell as slid neatly onto the mattress. Don all but rolled his eyes at the thought of trying to imitate his brother's daily leap, instead he clamored up the latter he had installed for just such an occurrence. Unobtrusively, of course, so no one would think that Mikey 'was totally lame'. Not that there was anyone other than their family around- but try telling Mikey that.
The covers were a tangled mess. Orange was the predominant shade, but it wasn't that easy to come by and nights could get pretty cold down here. Michelangelo had acquired a virtual nest of blankets, all of varying thicknesses and designs. He had even managed to dig up a Justice Force comforter, the kind that they sold at Sale-Mart, or, Don had seen them there online, anyway. Digging through the proverbial rat's nest, 'no offense Master Splinter' he apologized reflexively, gained him nothing besides a few empty bags of chips and miscellaneous crumbs. How Mikey ate in bed and didn't get crumbs in his shell was just one more thing about the youngest that Don just didn't understand. At least it was something he expected not to understand.
Admitting defeat, at least for the moment, Donny crawled back up to the latter and hauled himself up to the second bunk. It was much higher than his own and, ninja or not, Don wasn't sure that he would want to sleep there every night. Not even Mikey slept up there all the time, though he knew his younger brother preferred it. Raphael would deny Mikey the forethought, but Don thought that Mikey slept on the lower bunk whenever he thought that he might sleep in, which was most of the time. Donatello had very little to base this on besides his own feeling of his brother's mind, and the fact that Mikey had yet to be hauled into his lab first thing in the morning with injuries consistent with a hothead pulling him down a drop of eight feet. Don wondered idly why Raph was always sent to wake up the youngest turtle- not that Don envied him the task. Donatello supposed it must be to give Raph the opportunity for some turnabout for all the days that Mikey was sent after him.
The top bunk was covered by a thin orange sheet, muddied by too many washes, but there was definitely something underneath it, several somthings, actually. Don threw back the covers to expose an extremely eclectic collection of items. There was a crumbled brown bag that Don gingerly moved with thumb and first finger, until he caught a whiff of its contents. Incredulously Don opened the bag and breathed in the familiar scent of their Father's, and by rote, their eldest brother's as well. It wasn't that easy to come by, so much so that Don always felt guilty when Master Splinter served him some, having never much cared for tea himself. Still, it wasn't something that you could politely refuse, at least, not from their sensei. Careful not to spill any, he folded it back up and placed it aside.
There were some strips of leather that Don thought would make good belts or pads, or even sheaths. He wondered what Mikey was planning to do with them. Underneath that, he found a collection of cassettes- honest to goodness cassettes. There were about five of them, and defiantly not the kind of thing Mikey usually listened to. Besides, hadn't Don just fixed that older model MP3 for him? It didn't make much sense to the purple banded turtle who furrowed his brows in confusion- until he uncovered the remaining piece to the puzzle: an older physics textbook that Mikey wouldn't read if Don bribed him to. 'These are gifts,' thought Donatello guiltily. Mikey must have been hording these away for months, maybe even making surface runs by himself, otherwise one of them would have noticed the extra baggage that Mikey was carting back to the Lair. It looked like there were even presents for Leatherhead, April, Casey… and Don really hoped that that purple dress was for Angle. Christmas was still a month away, Don hadn't even thought about gifts yet. He hadn't even thought about thinking about them. In fact the only reason he had noticed the approaching season at all was that the weather had turned cold and he had been busy patching up their makeshift heater system. Of course, Mikey had always loved Christmas, even more then his own birthday. In fact, it seemed to be the one day of the year that Mikey was content to let others be the center of attention.
Suddenly Don felt guilty, was that a fair thing to say? Yes Mikey could be annoying, immature, and self-centered, but it was obvious that the younger turtle had more depth then he usually revealed. Raph always said that if still waters run deep then Mikey had the depth of a puddle in July. It was rather a harsh assessment, it was Raph after all, but Donatello had never bothered to disagree before. Maybe he should have.
He shouldn't even be up here, Don realized. He would never rifle through Leo's things like this, not unless it was in dire need and, younger brother or not, Mikey deserved the same consideration.
Throwing the blanket back over the mixed collection of items, Donatello slid lightly down the ladder and made his way to the door. He was ninety-nine percent sure that the light wouldn't go critical in the next few hours, so he would just wait for Mikey to get back. As he shuffled through the deterous, his foot suddenly hit something cold and metal. He leaned down and snatched up his ion light from where it was hidden inside of a obnoxiously colored shoe box. A shoe box, that he now noticed, had the shape of a T cut into the side. Don sighed; he must have walked by this spot twice already. He supposed that that was Mikey all over, always there, often intrusively so, but somehow always part of the background. Or at least, Don was beginning t see him that way.
He sighed once more and rubbed his hand over his face as he stood in the cluttered door way. Everything in the messy, chaotic room seemed designed to distract them, and maybe that was what Michelangelo wanted, maybe the youngest had his own flow chart of duties the brothers were responsible for. Don didn't want to take that away from Mikey, but it was important to keep in mind that there was more than just what they saw where their youngest brother was concerned. 'I won't be distracted any longer,' Donatello vowed as he pulled the door closed on the room behind him.
A/N: Ha, still Raphael's fault… Anyway guys, please leave a review and tell me what you thought of the story!
p.s.-(for anyone out there still interested in Absence, I will try my very best to get the last few chapters out over Christmas break)~ever, D.R'N.